Antique Moon & Star Buttons

07/16/19

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon inspired us to gather the many 19th century buttons and buckles we had with images of the moon. We then turned these whimsical pieces into jewelry, many of which are one-of-a-kind. Fanciful and appealing, these buttons underline the remarkable change in man’s understanding of the moon in just the 80+ years between the 1880s and 1969.

The celestial card from our Button Museum shows an amazing variety of 19th century moon imagery, including the whiskered Man in the Moon (top right) and the “Imp of Pain” (bottom right), which shows an odd little gnome chiseling the face of the moon.

Through our long human history, the unattainable moon has been seen as an enchanted, mysterious object. Within the Roman pantheon, Diana, virginal goddess of the hunt, was also goddess of the moon. With the transition to Christianity, the moon kept its feminine identification, and was most commonly associated with the Virgin Mary, who was often depicted standing upon a crescent moon.

With the scientific advances of 16th and 17th centuries, the moon lost much of its mystery as a religious or spiritual symbol. The invention of the telescope, and the discoveries of Galileo and Copernicus, stripped the moon of its mythical distance. The moon then became the subject of humorous folklore, and in England the “Man in the Moon” was depicted as a drunkard and lover of claret.

Center top: A cut steel moon is shown with radiating smaller cut steels, which represent a comet. Since this button dates from the 1880s, it is not Haley’s Comet, which appeared in 1910, but rather the Great Comet of 1882.

Center bottom: A beautiful button with the comedia dell’arte character Scaramouche, who serenaded Columbine from a crescent moon in the traveling shows of the late 19th century.

The ever-sentimental Victorians, however, resurrected the mystery and romanticism of the moon, seeing it as a symbol of femininity, often showing Art Nouveau maidens with flowing hair reclining on a crescent moon. The “Man in the Moon” still made appearances, though as a droll, cartoonish figure seen in children’s stories and playful poems.

With the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon on July 20, 1969, the seemingly insurmountable distance between humans and the moon was forever vanquished.  But even this event was commemorated in button form (left). We have one bracelet in our Luna Collection made with this rare commemorative button!